What’s That in That Field?


Do you ever wonder as you’re zipping down the highway, past all the fields full of different vegetables, what is actually growing out there? I do. Can’t help myself. My middle name begins with C … stands for Curiosity. Well, not really, but middle names are something we don’t often talk about; mine’s no exception. I digress.

Anyway, whizzing past the fields at 65 mph, I can figure out the lettuce. That’s easy. We grow more lettuce here than anywhere else in the country, identification is a slam-dunk. I can even figure out most of the different varieties – iceberg, romaine, green and red leaf, butter and even spinach. I especially like it when one large field is planted with a myriad of colorful varieties. It’s a beautiful sight – rows of splashy greens and reds stretching toward the horizon.

The fields with the low-growing plant dotted with red are pretty straightforward … strawberries! The bright, red berries are a dead giveaway. Every time I see them I hear the Beatles in my head singing … Strawberry Fields Forever! As one of our biggest crops, it does seem like they’ll be around forever.

But if I see a field that I can’t figure out I just have to stop, even if I’m jetting along at 65mph, get out of my car take a closer look. That happened to me just the other day. After 20 years, I came across something I didn’t recognize.

Zooming by it looked like stalks of brussels sprouts with leafy tops …  a new variety perhaps? Then I thought it might be broccoli going to seed. I had a wild hair that it might even be fava beans. Curiosity drove me to the side of the road for an up-close investigation.

Turned out it was kale. Now, I actually do know what kale is. But this was at a stage in the harvesting process that I’d never stumbled across. All the lower leaves had been picked and just a top-knot remained. Rows of peppy, little kale umbrellas bobbed in the breeze. Kale is a super healthy green … I certainly felt better after this encounter.

There’s a lot to discover in the 300,000 plus acres of vegetables growing here – broccoli, carrots, broccolini, onions, lima beans, alfalfa, wine grapes, celery, artichokes, cauliflower, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries, cabbage, kale, peas, asparagus, parsley. So, next time your tooling along in your car and are stumped by what you see, stop and smell the broccoli … or celery … or whatever else it might be.


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